Daddy Issues: Pocket Change

A daughter gets a little older, a little wiser, but still willing to work for cheap (for now, anyway).

DaddyIssues-March2016A few weeks ago, my daughter sat down and read That’s Not My Polar Bear to us. It’s a book that we read to her before she was able to roll over, and now it’s her turn. She’s picking up words on signs and menus and, in general, it’s getting a lot harder to fool her about anything. Generally speaking, that’s good.

She entered kindergarten in September able to write her name. Now she’s writing sentences. I struggle to help her make sense of why a hard-K sound is sometimes a “C” and why some letters are silent and why words that sound the same mean different things. That’s because English is a pretty ridiculous language, and she is figuring that out.

Time is beginning to make some sense. “Please hurry” doesn’t have any more effect on her than “We’re going to be late!” but “Your friend will be here in the time it takes you to watch one Garfield” does. (Side note: I’m not thrilled she’s into Garfield, but only because it means she’ll soon return to her belief we should have a cat.)

She’s learning. Every day her world comes more into focus. Life makes a little more sense. It’s wonderful, and if I have one hope, it’s that she’ll never understand what money is really worth. Not because she’ll be happier freed from the bonds of consumerism, but because she works so, so cheap.

Seriously. She’ll take a quarter to do almost any household chore, and she’ll take it happily. She’s drying dishes. She’s taking out compost. She’s folding clothes. She will even do something that resembles cleaning her room. She’s become a contributing member of the household — and for pocket change.

And when she has four shiny quarters to rub together, she’ll do so, and they’ll light a fire in her pocket and we’ll take her to Dollar Tree. She’ll carefully walk each aisle, weigh her options, and buy something she can color in 10 minutes, or cuddle until it rips (in 10 minutes).

After Christmas, she asked to be taken to the credit union so she could open a savings account. I’m told she sat as patiently as a 5-year-old can sit while awaiting her turn and when she came home, she ran downstairs with her account book, as proud as I’ve seen her.

“I have $12,” she said.


“You have $20, actually, and did you thank your grandma and grandpa?”

“Is $20 more than $12?”

Yes, but less than a quarter, I thought. But I didn’t say that, because I need her to keep working for quarters.

A few weeks later, she shattered into tears when we told her she couldn’t keep the cash a friend gave her during a sleepover. It was a sweet gesture from one child with absolutely no understanding of cash value to another. The amount was $13, and it was almost certainly a gift the friend had received.

“But she has more money than me,” my daughter cried.

“So?” I said. “Lots of people have more money than us.”

Didn’t help. At the same time, when she overheard my wife and I discussing the need for a plumber, and my desire to try to fix the problem myself because who has money for a plumber, she said, “I have $12 in my bank account if that helps.”

“You have $20,” I said.

Do I wish she wasn’t as interested in money as she is lately? Of course I do. I also remember wanting everything and understanding nothing about family finances. If we could get food, why couldn’t I get Voltron?

But I learned, and despite my worst efforts, she’ll learn that in fact, $20 is more than 25 cents, and eventually that quarter isn’t going to be enough. Especially when she’s old enough to wash the dishes all by herself.


Ryan White
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